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Serial burglar who doused pensioner with acid is jailed for 18 years

A serial burglar who scarred his victims with acid - including a pensioner who suffered burns to a quarter of her body - has been jailed for 18 years.

Gerard Whelan Credit: SWNS

Gerard Whelan, 45, carried out five separate attacks using a liquid the same strength as sulphuric acid in just one day in Ilford, east London.

And on Christmas Day last year Whelan went on to assault three people while trying to steal their cars.

The attacks began on December 13 last year when he broke into a 69-year-old woman's home. She was left with permanent scars to her arms, legs, body and face during a struggle.

Acid injuries to Gerard Whelan's victim Credit: SWNS
Acid injuries to Gerard Whelan's victim Credit: SWNS

The pensioner was forced to undergo skin grafts and multiple operations after she suffered burns to a quarter of her body.

During the ordeal in Ilford, east London, the victim woke up to find Whelan standing over her.

He told her "If you don't be quiet I will kill you" before stealing a bangle and rings from her hand and forced her to sit downstairs as he rifled through her kitchen cupboards.

When the woman tried to escape he stopped her and squeezed the noxious substance all over her from a white bottle before breaking her little finger in a struggle for the screwdriver.

Remains of a bottle used by Gerard Whelan which was dropped in one of the attacks Credit: SWNS

On December 12 Whelan broke into another home nearby and threatened an 89-year-old woman with a screwdriver before spraying the substance on the wall and demanding money and she gave over £190.

Later that same day he poured the liquid onto a 62-year-old man, but luckily as he was wearing a coat it did not touch his skin.

In a day of horror he also tried to carjack a 39-year-old woman as she dropped her daughter at school and attempted to spray her with the liquid but missed.

Another victim, a 40-year-old man, was squirted with the liquid into his mouth and eyes but as Whelan climbed into the car the brave victim grabbed his keys and ran.

A 38-year-old woman, his fifth and final victim of the day, had a substance thrown over her face as Whelan tried to steal her handbag.

The victim, who said the liquid from a spray nozzle smelt like ammonia, felt a burning sensation on her face and has now lost the cells on the surface of her left eye.

Whelan also tried to throw the liquid at her husband when he tried to intervene.

On Christmas Day last year the prolific burglar posed as an undercover police officer to talk to a 36-year-old man sitting in his car in Bounds Green, north London.

As the pair spoke he began spraying the liquid from a bottle into the victim's eye before threatening him with a screwdriver.

A second man, 62, was later assaulted nearby with the butt of a screwdriver four times as Whelan tried to grab his car keys.

On the same day he also threw a 58-year-old woman to the ground and hit her with his crutch after she had started the engine of her car.

Whelan, of Paddington, west London, was jailed for 18 years at Wood Green Crown Court after he admitted grievous bodily harm with intent.

"The length of the sentence today reflects the gravity and callous nature of these acid attacks. Whelan embarked on a series of horrifying offences against a raft of innocent and vulnerable members of the public, many of whom were lucky not to incur serious injury.

Unfortunately several of the victims did sustain life changing injuries as a result of being sprayed with a noxious substance.

One of these elderly ladies spent over eight weeks in hospital and now, some nine months later, still hasn't returned to work or regained full mobility of both arms.

The attached pictures show the extent of the injuries Whelan inflicted on her, after he had threatened to kill her and she had tried to escape.

– Senior Investigating Officer, DS Brett Hagen, Met Police